Darebin Council, with the endorsement of the Wurundjeri council, is leading a push to remove the association of Northcote's Batman Park with controversial explorer John Batman, due to his historical legacy which includes the murder of Aboriginal people. The council conducted a survey last year regarding the name change with the results showing that 83 per cent of respondents supported a name change, 14 per cent opposed, and 62 per cent of the supporters were in favour of the name, Gumbri. The name Gumbri is significant as it translates to “white dove” in the traditional language of the Wurundjeri people, as well as being the name of Jessie Hunter, the great niece of William Barak and the last Aboriginal girl to be born on Coranderrk mission. Darebin Council will convene a committee to oversee the name change.
The name change is part of a wider campaign to strip Batman’s name from public places and buildings as he is synonymous with Indigenous land dispossession following his role in convincing Indigenous elders to sign a "treaty" trading more than 200,000ha of ancestral land for blankets, flour and other goods in 1835. There are more than two dozen locations around Melbourne that bear Batman's name, including multiple Batman parks, streets, avenues, a hill and a railway station.
Batman federal Labor MP David Feeney supported calls to change the name of his electorate earlier this year. He said federal electorates should be named after prominent and distinguished Victorians, and help unite the community.
"There can be debate about what the contribution of John Batman was," Mr Feeney said, "but clearly modern scholarship has revealed that his participation in conflict in Tasmania and the notion that he was essentially bounty hunting first Australians in Tasmania mean that the Wurundjeri's angst and other's angst is perfectly reasonable."
An alternative name for the Batman electorate of "Simon Wonga" (named after the Wurundjeri elder who was one of the first Aboriginal leaders to successfully regain lands taken by settlers and secure land that later become the Coranderrk Aboriginal mission) has been suggested by the Wurundjeri Land Council.
For the full article of Darebin Council's push to change the name of Batman Park, click here.